Author: Phoebe Richards

Audition Process: emotional and physical

The anxiety of auditions is personal to all I am sure. As an actress I have come to terms with the reason for my anxiety: the need for approval. While I certainly have learned how to bounce back from rejection, I still cannot keep myself from fearing it all the way through an audition. It can be very difficult to truly lose myself while feeling I am trying to prove myself. For the most part auditions are best when they are over!
I spent my first three years of improv in a group called Improv Robot in Olympia, Washington. The joy of working with a group of people you understand and trust and who crack you up is immense. When I began the audition for Interrobang? I felt a mix of emotions. The usual nerves were present, but knowing I was auditioning with a group of my peers to be a member of a troupe excited me; it had an element of courtship.

Part One of the auditions were held at the very warm Stone Soup Theater. The group introduced themselves and had a good banter about their groups goals and process. They mentioned physicality and emotional range as two of the important elements they were looking for.
After some standard warm-ups, they tested how far we would go physically with crazy suggestions. The scenes involved one “straight man” and one “wacky character”. The wacky character was whispered a suggestion by a fellow auditioner, like “Narcoleptic Game Show Host”, and the two started a scene. What I loved about the set-up was that the “straight man” could not react to the “wacko” in surprise, but instead like they were used to each other, forcing the scene to have a real relationship. Meaning, no one wants to watch a scene of one person running around acting crazy while their scene partner stands there going “You are weird.” No shit they are weird, the audience can see that. What is much more entertaining to watch is how this seeming normal person relates to this wacky person. Are they dating? Co-workers? Once you create stakes and an emotional connection the scene gets to levels, the one being the humor of watching an improvisor trying to play absurdity while also relating to another person with character.
The second scene we did was a serious scene. In pairs we were given a heavy scenario to play out and told to remember our emotional beats. I was given that I had lied to my boyfriend that I was pregnant in order to keep us together, but he was starting to figure it out. Interrobang?! explained they were looking for improvisors who could commit to real emotions. After we did the scene, with some high emotions, we were told to do another scene together following the same emotional pattern. If our scene had started out sad and become angry we were to do that again. My second scenario was that I had lied to my boyfriend about taking showers to keep him from dumping me, but in fact I never took them. Two important elements to this second scene were that we play with the same honesty as before. Because the scene would be funnier for the audience did not mean our characters were any less committed to this problem then they were the first time around.
So there is the theme that Interrobang?! kept going throughout the audition process, blending big physicalities with high emotional stakes.

Callbacks were announced the next day and I had a week to wait. The Saturday between auditions,Interrobang?! performed at Last Call. I went to see them, of course, and the show was excellent. It had strong silent scenes, heartfelt monologues, and men breast feeding each other. Golden.

Part Two of the auditions were held at the slightly cooler TPS. Suddenly I had a stronger desire to be accepted. Having seen such an amazing show I wanted to join and play and have fun with these performers.
A great aspect to these auditions were the feedback we got. The group would come up with challenges for us, as they do for each other in rehearsal. It really helped me to push past my safety net. I was asked to be broader in my physicality and to play some low status characters. I always as for feedback after auditions, if I don’t get cast, to see what they wanted ton see from me. It was awesome to essentially get notes while still auditioning and allow us to use them.
That night we did silent scenes in groups of three. We were to use only one word each, one time only. This exercise was great because it put focus on movement and blocked the habit to over talk a scene. Touch becomes much more a focus in silent scenes, the physical connection, which is a backbone to the work Interrobang?! does. They are a very intimate group in the sense that they touch each other, grope each other, squeeze each other, a lot. Which brings me back to the beauty of working with people who are familiar. Despite knowing most of the people I was auditioning with, I had never worked on stage with any of them, and pushing myself to be comfortable touching them, even just their arm, was more of a challenge then I wanted it to be. The silent scenes, however, laid a better foundation for this. I realized, while doing my silent scene, how often I hide behind talking in a scene. I can talk and talk about what my character is thinking, but when that is taken away from me I am forced to process everything with my body, which leads to connection. be it connection to the props around me, or to my scene partners.
The callbacks were then moved outdoors, where we performed open scenes as the sun went down. There we did an open 15 minute set. This was, personally, my least favorite part of the audition. Despite Interrobang?! telling us we shouldn’t feel the need to run into every scene happening, it seemed like people were. I ended up standing off stage for the majority of the set feeling awkward. This is very much my own insecurities coming out, but I hate the feeling of chaos onstage and so, because I didn’t want to add to it, I was left with very little stage time.That is not a great feeling in an audition, because it causes worry that they are seeing nothing to impress them.

Now the auditions are over and I have been cast in Interrobang?! We have started rehearsals, and with the pressure to impress gone, I am able to take my time, make connections and learn to trust. The best magic comes from the moments on stage when you look into your scene partners eyes and know that both of you are fully committed to that moment.